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  • Created by: Iveta
  • Created on: 10-03-14 15:03

The nature of Childhood

Pre-Industrilisation/ Mediaval times

Aries found that during mediaval times, there was no concept of childhood and children were treated very unfairly. This was because:

  • Children had to work alongside their parents doing hard in factories and mines
  • children were beaten up and punished harshly in the same way as adults if they did something wrong, despite the fact that they were much more fragile than adults
  • Children did not have toys, clothes or any other form of entertainment such as video games, television, etc
  • They were treated as economic assets rather than a symbol of love
  • There were high infant mortality rates and parents showed little or no signs of care if their child died at an early age

AO2: However, Aries can be criticised for claiming that there was not concept of childhood during those times. There may have been a concept but it was simply different from today.

Aries also looked at a small sample of a French aristocratic family- cannot generalise and assume that all children were treated this harshly in mediaval times- lacks ex validity

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Childhood in Modern times

Aries argued that childhood has been improving and in the modern times and after industrilisation, children are treated far better:

  • They have the right to happyness
  • They have the right not to work and be financially dependant on their parents. Children also have to go to school compulsary from ages 5-16 years old.
  • Parents started to love their children a whole lot more and they were genuienly concerned about child beggars, prostetution, etc
  • Adult and Child world was separated i.e. children were not allowed to enter adult places such as pubs, casinos and clubs

Simialrly, Shorter takes a 'march of progress' view and claims that parents' views of children has been changing drastically.
Parents see children as more important and they value them a lot more. Mothers in particular see children as more important that their own lives. Today, it is important that mothers care for their children and society looks down on those that treat their children harshly

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However, childhood experience has NOT been a positive experience for everyone equally. This is linked to CLASS and ETHNICITY.
For example, children from middle-class families are seen to be more child-centered because they can afford more things for their children i.e. clothing, private tutors, etc so this positively benefits the child.
Working class families cannot supply much material sources for their children. They are more likley to suffer from ILLNESSES and be HYPERACTIVE because they have a poor diet and nutrition that lacks in vitamins. This also means that they may take days of school and so underachieve.
Poor mothers also may give money to low weight babies and this negatively affects them because they can suffer from intellectual problems later.

Ethnicity: Brenner looked at 15- 16 years old and found that Asian parents were more stricter with their children and were more likely to use punishments againts them if they did not listen or behave

This shows that not all children experienced positive childhood experiences but it is linked to social class and ethnicity

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Modern families

There is more evidence to show that children in the modern world are treated better and they are protected in a numerous different ways....

  • There are a number of people looking after them such as social workers, nannies, babysitters, doctors, nurses, child-minders, etc
  • There are also a number of different laws that are protecting children such as the Children's Act in 2004 developed the 'Every Child Matters' policy where they looked after the wellbeing of children from 0-19 years old
  • Jenks argues that there are age restrictions which also protect children in society
    Children are not allowed to work part-time until 13 years old
    They are not allowed to work full-time until they are 16 years old
    They cannot buy cigarettes and alcohol until they are 18 years old

This shows that in today's society, children are cared for and their health and safety is protected in a number of different ways so society is becoming child-centered

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AO2 and Opie

However, not all children in all societies are treated fairly.

  • It was found that in some less developed societies, children have to work full time hard labour for very long hours and minimum paid
  • in 2007, statisics showed that there were approx 300,000 child soldiers
  • Still accouns of child abuse i.e. Baby P
  • Mayall: parents control their children and this can lead to violence and child abuse 


Opie found that in modern society- children have a childhood because there are mnay toys, video games, clothing , etc all designed escpecially for them. Compared to in mediaval times, children had none of that and were treated like little adults

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Childhood is dissapearing

However, childhood experience may not necessairly positive because it is dissapearing in modern society...

  • Postman argues that children have lost their innocence because they can easily have access to any adult website online
  • Palmer, in Toxic Childhood 2007, argued that childhood is dissapearing  because parentd TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY. Instead of using tradional parenting practises, parents give their children TV to watch or video games to play to keep them quite.
    This means that many children will be deprived from tradional parenting practises and so shows that not all children will experience negative chilldhood experiences
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